To enable your best calligraphy or illustration work, you’ll need a reliable set of pens. Dip pens, which draw ink when dunked into an inkwell and deposit pigment as you write, are a fantastic alternative or complement to fountain pens and brushes. With lots of nibs to choose from, dip pens offer a great level of flexibility and therefore more control over your final designs or decorative writing. Depending on their size, shape, and degree of rigidness, nibs can be used to combine thick and thin upstrokes and downstrokes—whereas fountain pens maintain a consistent line width with every stroke. Breathe a little more life into your pen work with our recommendations, below.
1. Brause Writing Set
The answers to all your needs for elegant writing can be found in the German-made Brause calligraphy set. It comes with flexible and near-rigid writing nibs as well as a natural wooden nib holder so you can create six different pens for a wide variety of strokes. Made from cold rolled steel, the nibs are durable to tolerate long-term use, and each is pressed to form a precise point for satisfyingly smooth writing. They also respond beautifully to pressure and hold an impressive amount of ink so you can spend less time dipping and more time drafting.
2. Manuscript Pen Leonardt Copperplate and Shadow Set
If you want to practice copperplate script—the sophisticated, centuries-old style of calligraphy originally produced by master engravers—consider this set of nibs from Leonardt, which has been making dip pens since the 19th century. Included are five wide-ranging nibs to encourage you to get creative, from the flat Crown nib to the large, rounded Steno nib that can create a range of strokes and weights. Each has a pleasing amount of flexibility to accommodate dramatic, fluid flourishes; you also get a slick, tapered holder in dark wood.
3. Mont Martre Calligraphy Set
This set comes with everything you need to produce a variety of lettering styles. In addition to 20 ink cartridges in seven colors, you get four pens and five nibs designed for styles from Roman Round Hand to Gothic. All-inclusive kits can be hit-or-miss, but the pens in this one are handsome, the nibs durable, and the ink vibrant and fast-drying. Pigment flows smoothly and the tips do not scratch paper. If you’re coming to calligraphy for the first time, the kit also includes an introduction book to the art form and a book with beginner exercises.
4. Speedball Artists Pen Set
Are you more interested in drawing? Go with Speedball’s set, which comes with nine nibs (B style, C style, and pen points) for a variety of illustration and drawing styles. All are flexible for maximum control. Also included are two nib holders—made of plastic, but easy to assemble and maintain.
5. Manuscript Pen Modern Calligraphy Set
When practicing calligraphy, it can be challenging to keep your nib at the proper angle to achieve beautiful, slanted writing. An oblique pen can help steer you right. These pens feature an attachment for the nib that affixes it to the pen holder so the tip slants a certain way as you write from a more natural position. This kit comes with the holder plus three Leonardt tips and a bottle of black ink. The nibs are flexible, pick up a good amount of ink, and write cleanly without blobbing on the paper. Although the holder is made of plastic, it is sturdy, and the attachment is made of metal to last.